How You Can Help a Trans Person <br>Who Has Been “Other-ed”

How You Can Help a Trans Person
Who Has Been “Other-ed”

Guest Post by Charissa Grace White

There are a couple of things that go on in our binary society, consequences that are applied by other human beings who don’t even know the definitions of what they are doing…but they do it anyway. The paradigm dictates these actions, and those who benefit from the privileges provided by their place in the paradigm carry them out with a sense of self-righteousness and satisfaction, safe in the belief that they are preserving “the social order.”

The first of these actions is called “policing,” and this goes on in matters of any minority or have-not who attempts to participate in society in any way other than that which has been sanctioned by the paradigm.

Policing happens to me when I am intentionally misgendered, or when I am insulted and/or attacked verbally, physically, spiritually, or when I am excluded from spaces that other women can go freely without a second thought.

Policing also happens in matters of race, in matters of age, in matters of religion, in matters of politics…you name it. If there is a human group of haves, they will find ways to police the have-nots.

But there is another action…this one is by far more insidious and subtle, and I think more damaging and destructive in the long run.

This one is called “other-ing.”

Other-ing occurs anytime that anything happens which makes the person in question “the other.” Thus in my case, the challenging of my rights to work, to be in spaces, to be in public…

Of my right to BE.

This serves to remind that I am “other”…”different”…what I am not.

Do you see how this works?

Cis-gender friends…you will never ever be confronted with this questioning of your right to be alive, unless you are at another intersection of oppression such as race, or being disabled, or being the “wrong religion.”

When you are in the work place, you will be given the gift of being judged solely on your performance, and never on your orientation gender-wise (again, this is true unless you are at another intersection of oppression).

Being “other-ed” feels unbelievably wrong…it leaves you numb…stunned…shocked that someone can celebrate their ignorance so confidently that they would tear someone else’s guts out.

Being “other-ed” happens unbelievably fast…and sooo unexpected, so unpredictable…it’s like being punched in the nose when your eyes are closed and you have been told you will get a nice surprise.

And then when it’s done…you are left there with that feeling of having had the wind knocked out of you…Y’all have had that happen, right? You take a fall so hard that you cannot breathe…and you think you are gonna just die on the spot…and it just goes on and on and on no matter how hard you try to catch your breath, you just cannot…and those around exhort you to breathe, but you cannot, for there is nothing to breathe and you are just…

“OTHER”

Sadly…that feeling is not escapable, the aftermath of other-ing. So what I would like you to know is when you are around someone who has been other-ed, be patient with them as they recover from the shock, and just keep the love flowing around them like oxygen…

Just because they aren’t breathing it in right then doesn’t mean they do not desperately need it and want it! Keep that love “on offer.”

Don’t believe them when they say they are “okay,” because that is what they have been taught to say to survive…”stiff upper lip”…”buck up child”…”paste a smile on”…”never let them see they have hurt you”…

*I am guessing that my friends of color know what I mean implicitly!*

And then, here is the really crucial thing:

How can you help:

Your swift, unconditional “punch in the nose right back” at the one(s) who “other”…your defense of us…this is absolutely essential and treasured above all things.

WE CANNOT DEFEND OURSELVES because we are “OTHER” and thus have no ground to stand on!

We need YOU, those of you who have taken the name “Ally,” to bring swift, certain, sure, and confident reprisals down on the heads of those who bully, oppress, and police us with other-ing tactics.

And then PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE do not look to us for approval and kudos and primroses and bouquets of our affirmation…we are shattered right then! We are f’ing shredded and bleeding and reeling and horrified with ourselves thanks to being “other-ed,” and we don’t have the resources to pet you and affirm you and thank you…not right then at least.

Step up and deliver the message, and do it with absolute conviction like a Mother Bear would defend her cub.

And then give the ones that you are standing for tonsa love, hugs, tenderness, and patience…soon enough they will be stronger again…for if we are one thing only, it is resilient.

Hey, sadly…the ones who aren’t resilient are not with us any longer…they fell in battle with this monster and fed it with their blood.

You are welcome to share this if you feel so led…and the only thing I can promise you if you DO share? The falling of Oppression…the destruction of the Binary Penitentiary, the building of courage.

…and yeah, maybe that WOULD make the heart of God glad.

With much love,
Your Charissa…in resilience and faith

Author Bio

CharissaCharissa Grace White is a 56-year-old woman who at long last has found her stride, found herself. She loves God and loves people and deeply desires to see the True and Loving Face of a Graceful and Accepting God be revealed in this world through her life.  She has a life statement:  Yielded Vessel Yielding Blessing…and she is honored to be alive.

She is currently employed at an Early Childhood Education Center as an Enrichment Specialist who specializes in Faith Formation and the Spiritual Development of children.  She accomplishes this through puppetry, storytelling, and music.  She is currently training to become a certified “Godly Play” instructor. She also teaches nutrition and culinary interactions with the “Harvest For Healthy Kids” curriculum.  

She is a poetess, and sees all of life as one Great Poem being written by us, who all in some form or fashion write the lines and are also being written as poems ourselves. She loves reading, writing, and working with people.  She dreams of one day utilizing her writing skills and people skills to make a place of greater liberty in our society for transgender people, and a place of greater liberty in the lives of every individual she meets, regardless of gender.

She is happily married to the most amazing partner anyone could ask for, who has stood by her in love and stands with her as they both transition to the next phase in their union. They have four grown children who are the loves of their lives, and they know a secret about their children: the sun rises and sets by them! Now the rest of you are in on that secret! Lol!

Her blog, Charissa’s Grace Notes, can be found here. It is a trans-resource where she describes the “real life adventures” of a transitioning woman in middle age with her unique combination of wholeness and brokenness, experience and child-likeness. She hopes to meet you there!

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3 Comments
  • Sergi

    July 12, 2016 at 12:47 PM Reply

    Charissa,

    While I can get where you’re coming from it would still be nice to know what you have precisely in mind on what’s is to be other-ed, in real life. Everyone’s life and experiences is different and what you mean by other-ed can have a different meaning for every reader. OK, here’s what I think is an example of being other-ed in my personal experience: I get a non-stopping stream of hard, non-forgiving stares anywhere I go in my little, Welsh town, just because I like to wear skirts, makeup and so on. Sometimes that makes me feel VERY uncomfortable, because I’m a human being just like my next door’s neighbour, therefore it follows that I’ve got the right to NOT being stared at, as if I was an animal in a zoo-cage. For me it’s not only a sign of internalised transphobia, but also it shows how rude can get someone when he/she doesn’t understand that I have the same right to live and express myself as they do. Would be nice to hear from other personal examples of being other-ed… 🙂

    • Dara Hoffman-Fox

      July 17, 2016 at 7:53 PM Reply

      This is directly from Charissa in response to your comment. 🙂 —>

      Thanks for your question and also for sharing from your own experience. I know from enduring similar things how it feels in one’s very bones when those sorts of things occur.

      The most common form of othering I encounter comes from those who would fancy themselves as supporters who tell me “Hey, whatever it takes to make you happy.” That one is so tough to hear because of the assumption that is inferred by their statement! It assumes that being transgender is on the same level as a career choice, or a hobby choice…or if it is merely a wardrobe/fashion choice. It assumes that the speaker is oh so open-minded and generous to “approve of” and “support” my choice…and it utterly misses the point that I am who and what I am with or without their support.

      Contrast the difference between “I support you my friend as a human being with every right and privilege granted” vs “Hey, whatever floats your boat, I am okay with that.”

      I don’t need anyone’s permission or acquiescence to have being!

      Another form of othering is when someone says to me “You did that just like a real woman does that.” The othering of this ought to be blatant, and yet it reveals the assumption that because my body is what has been called biologically male, I am somehow not a “real” woman.

      The worst though is being called a “that” or an “it”…once in my place of employment, a stranger gestured at me and said “What is going on with that?” Talk about wounding…and yet the answer given by a co-worker who very much supported me and yet was incredibly careless and insensitive was “That is Charissa, and that is a she”…

      Just wow.

      A far better answer would have been “I am appalled that you just referred to a human being as “that”. I want you to know her name is Charissa White.” Or words to that effect.

      Your examples are the strongest and most painful kinds, and I think that they border very closely on actual attempts at policing your gender expression. Please be strong and rise above the small minded and hard-hearted presence of those around you.

      Charissa

  • Eola

    July 21, 2016 at 3:22 AM Reply

    Thanks for your reply Charissa, that sums it up quite well. Also, thanks for your words of encouragement x

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